Pharmaceutical company Norgine has celebrated the 50th anniversary of its manufacturing site in Hengoed.
Employing around 370 permanent staff and about 120 contractors, the company produces medicines for around 23 million patients.
The Hengoed site manufactures more than 30 million medicine packs a year, which help people across the globe living with constipation and support the diagnosis and prevention of serious gastro-intestinal diseases such as colorectal cancer.
While the overall company was established in 1906, its UK operation was moved from London to Wales in 1969.
Its managing director then was Peter Jones. Born in Tir-y-Berth, it was his decision to move to Wales and five decades later, the site is flourishing.
Speaking to Caerphilly Observer at a special event marking the anniversary on Friday, July 7, Norgine’s chief executive Peter Stein said: “I think we are very important for the area, but also the area’s very important for Norgine. We have benefited enormously from an employee base who wanted to be developed. This company has grown, both in terms of size, but also the quality of what we do.
“The staff have grown with us and we place a lot of weight on the development of our employees. Having that base of employees who want to grow with the company has been a huge boon for us.”
He added: “You always have a choice of where are you going to manufacture and, obviously for us, efficiency is terribly important. Having trade routes and being able to shift things easily within Europe has been enormously important for us – and that is more important than the gain you would have by putting out in China.
“We have a fantastic workforce who are committed to the company. If you invest in the workforce, invest in the factory, you gain efficiency.
“The very fact that we are manufacturing here for Japan and China is a sign that we are able to do that and that’s thanks to stability and being able to grow with the site.
“We’ve never really had a need to move from here – we’re not 100% reliant on here, because obviously now in the current situation we have to have alternatives.”
The “current situation” Mr Stein referred to is Brexit and the looming possibility of no deal and the uncertainty that brings.
The company has spent £11 million preparing for such a scenario.
Mr Stein said: “We haven’t hidden the fact that we are a European company and we mean it – we are European. Consequently, as a company we see many, many negatives associated with Brexit.
“Having said that, I’m confident that we have taken the steps necessary to cope with whatever outcome arises. But it’s not something we are welcoming.
“A qualified person has had to move to Holland, the quality control has moved to France and registrations have moved to Holland and Sweden.
“We’ve invested a lot of money that we could have used to invest in new products and new production, but that’s what we had to do to ensure that we have the practicable availability for our patients.”
Despite the overall uncertainty Brexit could bring, the company has said it is committed to the Hengoed site and has invested nearly £13m there over the last five years.
Caerphilly’s Member of Parliament Wayne David, who hosted the celebratory event, said: “Norgine is one of the most important employers in the county borough, not just in terms of numbers but the quality of the employment provided.
“It is something unique for the county borough to have a quality employer like this.”
Also speaking was Caerphilly Assembly Member Hefin David, who added: “Norgine has been an important employer in the Rhymney Valley for half a century. They are well-established at Tir-y-Berth Industrial Estate and provide high-skilled, well-paid jobs in a vital and growing industry. “I am confident that Norgine will continue to have a significant presence locally and I look forward to working with them in the years ahead.”